Meet Hector

Hector...hello.
Gif: Dakota Smith (@weatherdak)

Earth is the best planet, hands down. You should need no reminding of this, but on the off chance you do, allow me to introduce you to Hector. That’s him in the satellite imagery above.

Though it make look like a volcanic eruption, Hector is actually a storm system that appears with such regularity that it has its own name. You can find Hector popping off most afternoons over the Tiwi Islands, which sit just off the coast of North Australia.

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Thunderstorms are of course commonplace and can happen just about anywhere in the world, including as far north as the North Pole (though that’s actually weird and bad for a number of reasons). That pedestrian nature means they don’t get names. But Hector, owing to its wild regularity, is an exception.

The reason for the system’s surprising regularity has to do with the position and shape of the Tiwi Islands. They’re ideally situated at the confluence of winds. As the sea breezes converge on the islands, topography ushers them upwards and pulls moisture into the upper atmosphere. That creates instability in the atmosphere and is a recipe for thunderstorms to blossom. And blossom they do, on the regular at 3 p.m. most afternoons after Hector has spent the day getting into shape.

Hector going off last Saturday.
Gif: Dakota Smith (@weatherdak)
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Given that the conditions that spawn Hector’s instability are, well, pretty stable, meteorologists have been able to study the system in detail. Seriously, there’s a whole body of Hector research. And despite what nutters may say, Hector’s weird and regular appearance is not proof chemtrails are real.

The wonders that are modern satellite technology have allowed for an unprecedented view of Hector and opened it up for everyone to get a glimpse of the clouds from above. Japan’s Himawari-8 has a perfect view to spy on Hector each day. Colorado State University has a tool that lets you do just that as well, and poke around recent archived imagery of the storm system and weather across parts of the Pacific and Indian oceans.

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Even cloudy weather around the Tiwi Islands can’t stop Hector from going wild.
Gif: Dakota Smith (@weatherdak)

At this point, you must be wondering how Hector got his name. According to a video by the Australia Bureau of Meteorology, World War II pilots named the system. That’s because on their travels between Papua New Guinea and Darwin, Australia, which sits on the country’s main island about 100 kilometers (62 miles) to the south of the Tiwi Islands, aviators used the storm system as a form of navigation. So Hector isn’t just cool as hell to look at from space, it’s actually a useful storm system.

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Locals even have a cuter nickname for the storm: Hector the Convector. Someone write a children’s book already! In conclusion, please enjoy this GIF of Australian weather forecaster Nate Byrne flexing while saying Hector the Convector.

Gif: Australia Bureau of Meteorology
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